I've always claimed Michael Stipe to be somewhat hassidic/yeshivish. He displays his true essence and soul through music and he usually mumbles his words. He goes nightswimming because swimming during the day would be immodest. And he feels really bad about sitting in the corner and losing his religion (and we all know that the first step of repentance is admitting there's room for improvement – Maimanodies). But his sincerity as an eved ha'music (translation: slave to the tunes) never busted through as much as it does on R.E.M.'s new album, Reveal.

"Reveal" is a very appropriate album title as we are graced with the lyrics to this blissful, chamomile tea of an album in the linear notes. Stipe and crew have nothing to hide – even the words are enunciated clearly. Golly! And cynicism aside, they are quite poetic and eloquent. Never has Stipe come this close to Leonard Cohen-esqe in lyrical expression ("…written on your feet, your Achilles heel is a tendency to dream…").

I have read a great deal of magazine reviews on "Reveal" while eating in bed, which is a mistake…reading reviews, that is. And I have never encountered such a split mass opinion on an album. Q Magazine (a British music magazine, you silly novice) gave it five out of five stars, granting it classic title-ship But Gear Magazine (I know, I know. I'm sorry, Mom. It was just sitting there in a waiting room) told its readers to throw this album away.

Hmmm, what should you, the consumer, think?

Well, like most consumers you dont. You just buy. But now that you're asking, I'm quite comfortable with this album. While I will not refer to it as R.E.M.'s best, it is a great effort. If you're considering it, I must insist you first buy "Automatic For The People" (a desert island disc of mine) or their groundbreaking debut, Murmur. If you can remember last year (hey a lot of people have trouble with that) R.E.M. released last year a song called "The Great Beyond" from the Man In The Moon soundtrack. Do you remember? Eh? Well, if you do, you have a great idea of what "Reveal" is like. They basically bottled that mood and mass produced it across 12 tracks. If you're not familiar with that song, send me a postcard from that rock you're living under (yuck, yuck. Isn't that one a killer?) and then imagine hope and despair relayed in the same exact musical note. That sums up the album right there. Listen to the stunning tear-jerking "Saturn Returns" complete with whistle samples and shuffling encroaching drum sample. You will feel a chill but the windows…are…closed. How unusual. Now while re-reading this review, I'm not sure if i know what I'm talking about. Let alone you, the bangitout reader. But basically what I'm saying is R.E.M. still has it. And they will for a very long time. And I will stand in the place that I am (now face north) to defend this consistant and iconic band.